80s revival

Bright colours, unnecessary accessories and dated-but-new tracksuits are part of contemporary style to revive 1980s fashion idioms. Michael was asking me once about his confoundment of the revival of tracksuits, especially the really badly and poorly co-ordinated stuff. Bright colours reminiscent of the pinnacle of acid house are coming to revival. Just like the 70s revival of the 90s; the noughties has had a 1980s revival since the middle of the decade.

Some of us were still dressing 90s style by 2004. In spirit, I think I’ll always be living (fashionably speaking) in the 1990s.

It is said that the 80s revival will fold over soon to a 90s revival and grunge will become a form of chic. I’m embarrassed to be in living memory of grunge’s hayday.



I like to make nicknames, or make neologisms and words that only I understand. A ‘faker’ is probably one of the terms which seem to correlate to what others may comply with in their understanding and their observation.

I was listening to a Paramore album, in my attempt to stay culturally relevant to the mainstream and not to be completely isolated and out of the way of poppy things (that’s a story for another post), and the singer, whom I would prefer to look at than listen to; says something like ‘get out those horns’.

For the uninformed, she was referring to the Il Cornito or ‘devil horns’ which has long standing links to a darker side of NWOBHM heavy metal, and then later, underground metal, and now it seems to have diluted, like a cheap rum, into outright mainstream and AOR music. At that point, I felt something has soured; the search for authenticity is extremely difficult.

Fakers are the ‘joiners’ of a youth culture, or any kind of movement. They are the people who join for the sake of joining, or those who, although probably not to their own admission, commit to a movement in a cult-like fashion, without regard for ideology or deeper meaning, but the obviousness of a particular movement. In what does ‘obvious’ consist becomes blurred by the diffuse and shallow commitment of the faker.

I was watching a neat documentary on organic food, Penn and Teller’s Bullshit is a staple programme for me. Penn Jillette is often outspoken (a contrast to Teller’s silence routine) libertarian and an anti-bullshit activist. Many people can have critical things to say about him and I can’t always say that I agree with all of the views he puts forward (but they always challenge me).

This episode was a diatribe against proponents of organic food. Some of the following points were addressed:

1. Whether organic food is better than non-organic food is a matter of fact
2. The constitutents where which (1.) may be judged include:
i. Viability (sustainability)
ii. Corporate interests

i. Regarding viability, a fully organic infrastructure of producing food would provide enough for (sic) 4 billion.
ii. Regarding corporate interests: most organic producers are not small farmers, but large-scale interests, some of which comes from overseas

3. The issue of ‘taste’ is a moot one. This is more an observer prejudice to believe that organic food tastes better.

It was quite sad how the proponents of all-organic produce were quite tenuous in their beliefs. Two of the proponents were a married couple, living in a tepee, yet also living in a house. Their ideal of living off the land made little sense in the light of the fact that they had factory produced T-shirts with pithy environmental slogans (irony lost on such unintelligent people), or the fact that they used a piano, an instrument which robs ivory of animals.

The programme had a moral. It was not so much about the issue of organic food ,as there are side-tracked issues which are important (sustainability and carbon impact are distinct albeit relevant issues). To say ‘I believe’ and argue for a point does not cut the mustard. One really needs to rely on either or both: steady argumentation and empirically grounded facts.

Straw person tactics in very important issues like the environment demonise and undermine the importance of the cause. Furthermore, those who argue very badly put more than themselves into disrepute, but the institutions by which they represent.


The moral communion of fail

There is an enforced sense of morality and custom through the FAILBLOG website. Pointing out mistakes, shortcomings and unacceptable decisions are what enforce proper and successful behaviour compared to a ‘fail’. I urge all of you to keep a camera on your person as often as you can, or use a screenshot whenever you see a fail. Today, I saw a man urinating behind a tree and was right in sight of passing cars. Such primitive behaviour is not believable, unless one has proof. I’ve seen other ‘fails’ while on the internet: going on yahoo answers is too easy, although automated ads can be a good source of bad marketing; consider for instance, an automated ad promoting Michael Jackson tickets up to two days after his death; or adverts for Christian casual sex listings; or religious advertising on youtube next to video series like the angry atheist or Penn Jillette’s channel.

As for the notion of moral communion, a lot can be said of it but brevity shall cut it short for now.


Michael Jackson jokes

I’ve not written a post in the vein of ‘RIP MJ’, even though I have been meaning to. I think that train has passed, although maybe I’ll have one written for the 1st anniversary. Anyway, I have two observations:

1. One of my highest viewed posts is ‘Chris rock on Michael Jackson’. I’m not sure whether this is because people have a resurgence of interest in Michael Jackson (very likely), or are secretly looking for jokes on michael jackson. Michael Jackson jokes were a stable of my teenage-tweenties-years. In 2003 (work out my age), when the Martin Bashir documentary on MJ came out, I was 17 and it was a cultural event for a lot of us, as seen by the many standup routines done about him. Michael Jackson jokes, or specifically, jokes about paedophiles, were particularly common. The other observations on his eccentric celebrity status were perhaps more funny (i.e. dressing like Capt’n Crunch)

2. It has come to my attention that the Latest Sasha Baren Cohen film ‘BrUno’ (sic), has an edicted release, whereby a scene relating to La Toya Jackson is omtted. For a film that is primarily about offensiveness, taking out a joke MJ is quite literally a ticket to sellout’s-ville. If one chooses to make an offensive joke, they should follow through. Why must it always stop at arbitrary faux pas, like jokes that may invite reprisals or threats. Ideally, offense uin the name of expression should not attract too much harm. Sanctioning or minor legal suits are okay (defamation, libel etc), but not a Fatwah.


Education Today

I’ve been pondering about making some posts about the recent changes in UK education, but I think I shall give pass that over for the time being. There seems to be a change in the landscape regarding education.

Let us go into the current situation to set out the ideologue:

1. The standards of post-16 qualification, AGCE’s (‘A’ levels), are being undermined by the increased numbers of pupils getting A grades.
2. The standards of ‘A’ levels are being undermined by the percieved lowered standards, and the teaching methods that undermine independence in favour of memorising a syllabus and learning to answer exams in the fashion that they know it will be asked. In other words, there is less surprise, or test of skill and creativity in exams and more strategy involved.
3. Universities have for a long time been concerned with funding deficits: this is due to a whole variety of factors, some are general  and some are specific to the university and their research culture.
4. For the past few decades, many have pointed out the ‘professionalisation’ of academia; this includes the many buzzwords like ‘business model’, ‘schoolification’, interdisciplinary network initiatives, public engagement, ‘research’ and so on. While some aspects of the contemporary academy are positive (increased contact with the public; commissions for documentaries and television series and other wider media), there are some aspects in which academia has lost something of a better past.

i. The ‘lone-scholar’ archetype: academia, particularly the arts and humanities, used to be less ‘research’ based and less interdisciplinary, but engaged with more hard hitting and in-depth systematic studies, this is not to say that this kind of study does not occur, but is becoming more epheemeral in departments and less the norm.

ii. The ‘old’ notion of interdisciplinarity. Interdisciplinarity is inherently a weak idea; it is like, how, I consider the concept of someone calling themselves eclectic: Jack of all trades, master of none. There used to be a time when people were masters of many things. Physicists like Descartes and Newton have particular resonances to many fields beyond physics because of the way in which their philosophical thinking engaged and melded with their mathematics and natural philosophy.

Few physicists from the mid-20th Century really know much about philosophy beyond basic philosophy of science (or skeptics 101, if one were to be American about the whole thing). A similar thing should be said of philosophers today; many, excepting those few on the real cutting edge of philosophy of psychology and mathematics, are not themselves scientists or mathematicians. Interdisciplinarity is a response in a way, to the death of the polymath, and the increasingly ‘professsional’ status of academia. In a sense, a certain kind of concession should be made to the ‘dryness’ objection of the continental philosopher to analytic philosophy today.

I’ve a bit of time before I can elicit some more responses in terms of the underlying political responses. For now I shall just sketch out the landscape


This week in radio

Over the past 6-7 days, I’ve found that there has been a quite spectacular selection of radio programmes available for podcast, here are the highlights

1. In Our Time, BBC: The Logical Positivists.

In Our Time is always a staple favourite for its broad yet expertly chosen topics.Melvyn Bragg always expresses some reservations on air when doing a programme about philosophy, especially when it comes to the more technical, inaccessible and unfriendly issues. This issue was one of the best in the whole programme. The Logical positivists were one of the most important movements in philosophy, particularly in how they have shaped the contemporary landscape of philosophy. Barry Stocker and Mary Carwright were the expert commentators, particularly notable ones at that.

Something that Bragg insinuated but did not explicate very much was the fact that the three experts come from very different camps and perspectives. The Logical Positivists can be a divisive issue in philosophy. It is continental philosophy par excellence, and yet, the Vienna (and earlier Berliner philosophers for that matter) are ignored the most by ‘european tradition’ ( as opposed to the anglo-american analytic) philosophy. The Logical Positivists do not talk much about normative philosophy in the way that applied ethicists or contemporary social thinkers do, but have a somewhat nuanced relationship with value theory (viz, the trajectory of Error Theory or Emotivism).

Even my own interest in 18thC philosophy puts me in a postion where I must stand in relation to the the Vienna philosophers: am I to accept their critique of Kant, for instance? What was rightly noted in the programme is that this is not a very simple question: the vienna philosophers were not an intellectually homogeneous group; as they composed of members from different disciplines and focii. Schlick was one of the first philosophers who actually understood the modern physics of Einstein with much rigor. Neurath was a sociologist who had aspirations for the social status the academy as part of a social ideal of academics of all stripes working together, a notion which, though perhaps desired and desirable, is so very far from the truth.

A lot of Scholarship is dedicted towas the early history and origins of analytic philosophy. I’ve found it particularly interesting in the increase of interest that links Carnap to Kant (Friedman, Chigwell). The vienna philosophers were living in both wonderful and horrific times. Einstein was a mature physicist and the icon of the generation, but also, Austria and Modern Germany were under the Nationalist-Socialist reign.

Their further reading looks particularly nice

2. BBC Analysis: Thought Experiments

Various studies have demonstrated that by slightly different appraisals or wordings of questions concerning moral considerations,we exhibit different reactions or responses. Theres a moral significance to these studies, particularly concerning issues like whether we attribute intention to actions, responsibility,or how our actions line up with our propositional beliefs.

A lot more needs to be said of this issue. The standpoint of the anti- x-phi’s goes something like this (and I suppose this would be my view): so we have these studies that give us insights that go against our normal moral theories and insights. That’s fine, what else can you tell us? Interesting it may be, although the armchair-burning gesturing is quite purposefully and unnecessarily polemical. As if to say all philosophy except theirs is ‘armchair theory’. While philosophy does not normally rely on empirical measues, it is far from being pie in the sky idea-mongering, the sort of associations had with those having pot-fuelled thoughts on the world. That said, the current generation of philosophy often has an eye towards work that has instant gratification or generating departments which are “paper-mills”. The old focus of exegesis, comprehensiveness and the labours of criticism are not as strong as they used to be. The studies, in terms of social science methodology are quite interesting nontheless.

3. The Spirit of Grunge (BBC Radio 4)

This program marks 15 years (I think) of when Kurt Cobain had killed himself. This was a survey of Grunge and in particular, its place in mainstream UK youth culture. In the UK’s pop music history, the late 80s began to grow tired of the new wave optimism and hit factories which hardly met the aspirations and pessimism of Thatherite 1980s. The emerence of acid hose and fusion groups like the Stone Roses exploded and disappeared from the scene just as quickly. Along comes grunge.

Grunge, according to the journalists of the programme, captured something in the social consciousness. It’s lo-fi and authentic roots could no longer be sustained as the genuine grunge movement became a victim of its own success, most signficantly marked by Cobain’s death. I think it was really nicely captured when one of the commentators described it thus: the outsider music genre becomes popular. The jocks begin to listen music that the bullied nerds and loners had made, and in that respect, the genre could no longer be viable.

Some other subthemes include: inauthentic grunge and authentic grunge: Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and Smashing Pumpkins should hardly be considered to be grunge: Pearl Jam was a rock and roll band which had a twist, Smashing Pumpkins had more prog-elements to it. Also noted was how hugely unlikely Cobain’s success was: a boy from a broken family, living at one point in a trailer park in an area of great poverty and substance abuse. Popularity normally has a clean and friendly face and it was unlikely to be his.  The tragedy of grunge was in how the alternative becomes mainstream and commercial.

This narrative often is to be had: music which starts out as par of the fringe, polemical, challenging and ideologically opposed to the mainstream becomes homogenised and neutralised. ‘Nirvana’ is no longer a symbol of grunge, but a shirt in HMV that costs £13.99. It’s for that reason that I think its uncool to say that one likes Nirvana.

The potted history of UK music follows grunge with a reaction against it: britpop, locally made, self-indulgent, singer-artist archtypal and less ideological. Oasis is noted as a band which embraces its own success, with songs purposefully trying to be anthems, trying to be legendary, trying to appease for the masses.